Provision for entitled persons

All three and four year olds are entitled to 15 hours of free nursery education for 38 weeks of the year. This applies until they reach compulsory school age (the term following their fifth birthday). Free early education places are available at a range of early years settings including nursery schools and classes, children's centres, day nurseries, play groups and pre-schools and childminders.

When your child qualifies for a free place

The table below shows when your child will become eligible for their free early learning place.

If your child is born between:

They are eligible for a free place from:

1 April and 31 August

1 September following their third birthday or the beginning of the autumn* school term

1 September and 31 December

1 January following their third birthday or the beginning of the spring* school term

1 January and 31 March

 1 April following their third birthday or the beginning of the summer* school term

* Based on a three-term school year

Finding an early years provider that suits you

There are a number of different types of early education setting that can offer the free entitlement:

  • day nurseries, maintained nursery schools and nursery classes attached to primary schools
  • preschools and playgroups
  • primary school reception classes, where schools operate an early admission policy to admit four year olds
  • accredited childminders who are part of networks approved to deliver early education

Early Years Foundation Stage (birth to five years old)

Schools and early years providers have to follow a structure of learning, development and care for children from birth to five years old. This is called the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) and it enables your child to learn through a range of activities.

More information about EYFS can be found on the DirectGov website and on the Foundation Years website.

Where the EYFS applies

All maintained/independent schools or registered early years providers in the private, voluntary and independent sectors caring for children from birth to five must use the EYFS. This includes:

  • reception and nursery classes in maintained and independent schools
  • day nurseries
  • childminders
  • playgroups
  • after school and breakfast clubs
  • holiday playschemes

What does the Early Years Foundation Stage do?

The EYFS ensures:

  • children learn through play
  • providers work closely with parents
  • you are kept up to date on your child’s progress
  • the welfare, learning and all-round development of children with different backgrounds and levels of ability, including those with special educational needs and disabilities